Snow pack level shows improvement

  • Feb. 2, 2011 7:00 a.m.

The person in charge of Summerland’s water system welcomes new figures tracing local snow pack levels.

Water operations manager Scott Lee says the water equivalent of the snow level at Summerland Reservoir is at 107 per cent of the normal figure and 83 per cent of normal at Isintok Lake. These numbers are up “significantly” from measurements dated Jan. 1, 2011 when Summerland Reservoir stood at 96 per cent of normal with Isintok Lake at 71 per cent of normal.

“We are encouraged and I would characterize the results as very positive for this time of year,” said Lee, in assessing the figures.

“By this date, generally about two-thirds of the mountain snowpack has accumulated. This makes us cautiously optimistic about refilling our storage reservoirs for the coming season.”

Lee said in an earlier interview that the current snow pack levels mean that local reservoir levels (which depend on snow pack levels) stand around 40 per cent, “a pretty good level” for this time of the year, said Lee.

But he also stressed that the current figures are just that — snapshots. The picture will get clearer and more meaningful as the year progresses, he said.

“The significance of the numbers goes up as you get to mid-season,” said Lee.

The local numbers collected over the weekend flow into the Water Supply and Snow Survey Bulletin issued through the River Forecast Centre under the provincial Ministry of Environment.

The bulletin warns the public about flood and drought risks by collecting data from spots around the province and combining it with climate data from Environment Canada. More broadly, climate scientists, politicians and public officials in charge of local infrastructure look to reports of this kind for understanding and guidance.

According to the inaugural bulletin of the year, snow pack levels varied significantly across the province.

On balance, most of the regions (categorized by major watersheds) recorded lower snow pack levels as of Jan. 1 as precipitation hovered around average or below-average levels for most of the province from October to December, according to the bulletin. 

“In December, a series of sub-tropical storm systems brought continued moisture to the South Coast and Vancouver Island resulting in above normal precipitation, although overall October to December precipitation totals in the region are normal,” it stated.

“In contrast, the central interior received well below normal precipitation for the month of December, and was below normal overall for the fall.

Precipitation totals in the remainder of the province are generally below normal for the past three months.